Crouching Stress, Hidden Struggles

Dr Ankit Sharma,

MBBS, MD, DM Onco-Anesthesiology (AIIMS, New Delhi)

In a move that can only be compared to Miss Malini running out of A-list Bollywood celebrities and resorting to interview Arjun Kapoor for some content, Lexicon Edition 46 hierarchy has asked me to write a ‘serious’ piece for this edition. I have been asked to write about stress, pet peeves and hurdles in my career as an Onco-Anesthesiologist and Intensivist. Before I get started (and google what pet peeves means exactly), I need to put out two disclaimers:

  • This piece is NOT an official part of my CV.
  • Only the Director-of-Edition is intended to be tricked. You are NOT supposed to take it seriously.

There are occasions in every Doctor’s life when they have second thoughts about their choice of career. Mostly those occasions come whenever you’re up very early in the morning for work. For example, an average winter morning for me goes as follows:

6:00 AM – Wake up.

6:00-6:10 AM – Mumble cuss words for my career choices because it is still dark outside.

6:10-6:20 AM – Contemplate tending my resignation and going back to sleep rather than parking my rear end on the icy-cold commode seat.

6:45 AM – Hastily get ready (bath optional in winters) and leave for work else no toys for the kid and no respect from the wife.

Yes, life of an Anesthesiologist/Intensivist is stressful. Much like the life of most medicos (Dermatologists may look away, and hide their smirks). There is stress of long working hours, stress of night shifts, stress of the surgeon saying “starting closure” and then taking anything between 15 min to 4 days to finish, stress of inhaling too much unsolicited Sevoflurane, stress of getting an earful or even beaten up by angry attendants/spouse/metro commuters/online political trolls. What keeps me going then, you ask? Two simple things.

A. If not me, then who?

I’ve had training to do what I do. In a Bollywood movie, this is the part where a montage plays showing me lifting weights, punching a bag, overturning a tire and running through exquisite backgrounds while Yograj Singh screams at me. Not here. My montage will consist of getting spat/vomited/spilled blood/pissed upon, with an occasional viva scene where my Anatomy professor, for lack of more polite wordings, requests my batch to concentrate on studies else we’d halve the population of India soon. Whatever it is, I’ve endured 15 years (and counting) of this. In terms of confidence, I may be a nobody as compared to ‘Twitter’ experts, but I have a decent know-how, so, if not me, then who?

B. If not this, then what?

Life is all about balance, they say. Mostly, ‘they’ include the likes of ‘life coaches’, whose life is based on the incessant use of “Come On! You can do it!”, which feels highly inappropriate if coming from anyone else than your partner or Gym trainer. Not everyone is talented enough to become a musician or a stand-up comic, and this is not a Bollywood movie that many of us will make it big as a ‘wildlife photographer’, so we all have different definitions of work-life balance, and we make-do with what we’re trained for or good at.

Of course, we all wish to be super-rich like a few Indian industrialists (names not taken because it is an election year), but you also have to be thankful that you have some actual work/talent and the highlight of your day isn’t being a part of Munawar Faruqui Or Elvish Yadav’s Bigg Boss trophy rally. If you find yourself doing something that makes you happy in life, and adds value to others’ life, you’re lucky enough, and it’s time to count your blessings. Even an OnlyFans account or an Instagram Influencer page is an exercise in nation-building, if you feel so. Specifically, the youth of the nation is indebted to you.

Indeed, who should I direct my complaints against? The inexperienced surgeon, while a lot of big names waited patiently when I was in the slow segment of my own learning curve? Long working hours, while I (willingly) chose my own field of specialization? The ‘system’, while Elvish Bhai specifically asks us to phaadofy it? The bad outcomes, when I have seen countless wins and plan to strive for many, many more? In medicine (based on your field of specialization), every month a few of your nights may be spent in the hospital itself. Might as well call your workplace Gotham, so that before you leave your home for your workplace, you can play pretend-Batman and say “Gotham needs me!”.

All said, yes, balance is important. Find time for things that you love. Hobbies, family, alcohol, skin-care routines, forwarding repetitive Instagram reels, general debauchery (in no particular order). It’s your life, make it large (no pun intended). I live in a Metro city (right now, Pritam and Soham may suddenly appear on your screen with a song), and probably life is simpler and less hectic in smaller cities. I wouldn’t comment further on it. I’ve lived most of my Life In A Metro (*cue music* Innn Dinooo) and haven’t seen Swades more than once.

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Due to the word limit, we need to have a TL;DR version of this post as well, you know, for this short-attention-span generation. I’m sure you’ve seen the template a thousand times now.

I’m an Intensivist… I have dark circles your creams can’t fix.

I’m an Anesthesiologist… I like my adventures like I like my Tea. Hot, and every 2 hours.

I’m an Intensivist… I’ll talk to you after I’ve figured out what’s the reason for this monitor alarm.

I’m an Anesthesiologist… How long does my Surgeon’s skin closure take? An eternity.

I’m an…

Nah! I am too old for this.

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